Bridge of Spies – ★★★★ (1/2)

SYNOPSIS: During the Cold War, lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) is tasked with defending a Soviet spy named Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). In what seems like an open and shut case, Donovan manages to help his client avoid the death penalty but ends up being publicly ridiculed in the process. However when a US pilot is captured in Soviet territory, the Brooklyn lawyer must travel to East Berlin to negotiate an exchange between Abel and the pilot amidst dangerous surroundings.

Teaming up for their fourth cinematic collaboration together, legendary director Steven Spielberg and his renowned leading man Tom Hanks reunite once again as they tackle the remarkable Cold War drama Bridge of Spies.

A film that has taken almost fifty years to be made, audiences are guaranteed to be in safe hands when Spielberg is involved as he and the Coen Brothers work effortlessly to bring this intriguing story to life. Though the ending is inevitable, there is a thrill about the way Donovan manages to handle various situations particularly the crucial exchange but even then, little twists and turns prevent things from running smoothly.

While the film does rely on plenty of dialogue and limited action, the Coen Brothers provide some comical humour in their witty script which includes Donovan being embraced by Abel’s loopy family and the dirty looks he receives on the train by fellow passengers reading about his defense of Abel.

There is a lot of patriotism too as our humble hero delivers humbling speeches about freedom and doing things the American way but fortunately it never gets too schmaltzy. Once he arrives in the icy environment of East Berlin, intimidation is everywhere in a city that has been divided. Spielberg captures the film noir essence in this arc majestically with production support coming from skilled cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.

With such an iconic actor like Hanks in the lead, you would always expect him to portray Donovan as a likable guy and this is evident in various scenes throughout the film whether it be around the dinner table with his family or being locked in important negotiations with different people. Though his character never becomes overly emotional (compared to his performances in Philadelphia, Saving Private Ryan or Captain Phillips), Hanks’ facial reaction to certain moments are especially striking particularly one scene where he witnesses a group of people being shot at whilst climbing over the Berlin Wall.

British actor Mark Rylance almost steals the film from Hanks with his subtle take on Abel who is clearly guilty of his crime but never depicts him as shifty especially in scenes between him and his more recognisable co-star. Homeland’s Sebastian Koch makes a welcoming appearance as a shady German lawyer who tries to prevent Donovan from securing the safety of an American student while versatile performers like Amy Ryan and Alan Alda (as James’ wife and business partner respectfully) make small but useful contributions.

Bridge of Spies is a truly compelling film that serves as an important history lesson on the Cold War and will undoubtedly end up becoming another classic in the resumes of Messrs Spielberg and Hanks.

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